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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  March 22, 2018 1:30am-2:01am PDT

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>> today on "earth focus," neonicotinoids. s the wor's mostidely used pestide destroyg the basef the food chain? coming up on "earth focus." >> they're a mutagen. >> they're extremely persistent and extremely mobile. >> they are now found routinely in stream samples as well as well samples across the united states. >> if it's going to affect everything from honeybees to earthworms, uh, that is serious in and of itself. >> neonicotinoids are among the most widely used pesticides in the world. they bring billions in profits for the companies that make them. but now, growing evidence shows
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that these insectides are n only killing target pests, they are killing many beneficial species and destroying the base of the odis happened before. are they the new ddt? >> we don't want to have an insecticide that kills things it shouldn't. >> we've been somehow railroaded by agrochemical companies into relying entirely on their products. >> and i think we should be really concerned. it began th honeybees. in 2006, large numbers of worker bees began to abruptly disappear from honeybee colonies. since then, beekeepers have been losing 30% or more of their hives annually, losses that are higher than normal. this phenomenon came to be called colony collapse disorder.
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new york state beekeeper jim doan saw it firsthand. >> i've worked in bees for now 46 years, and so i know what normal looks like, and what ears inot normal.he last 6 or 7 >> neybee ls has consuences f the ecomy. onthird ofood proded in the u.sdepends honeybe polination e arputting at risk several hundred billion dollars productvery yea its significanbecause th cro that are llinated a some of them that really add diversity and vitality to our et. >> honeee loss have be linkedo multip factors ke pestides, hatat deadation,alnutritn, pathoge, and vaoa mite iestation for pesticide manufacturer bayer crop science, the issue is clear. >> mt expertagree that the
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single greatest threat to honeee healtis the vroa mi, an invive bloosucking pet that bh direct pasitizesyoung d adult be and vectors bee diseases. where varroa mites are absent or well controlled, honeybeesre thrivi. >> but jim says he knows why his bees are dying. >> we had a multitude of neonics that were showing up in our bees. it doesn't take much to kill a bee. neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of ide and comi on the scene in the 1990s. it is the fastest-growing group of insecticides in the united states. >> for the companies that make them, neonicotinoids, or neonics, are big business. they bring in over $2.6 billion a year in global sales. they are widely used as seed treatments, applied as soil drench, or sprayed onto foliage. in the u.s., they are used on
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some 200 million acres of cropland, on almost all cn, canola, and half of all soybean crops, as well as many fruits and vegetables. >> they are used in home and garden products, often at concentrations that are far higher than those you will find in the agricultural sector. >> millions of pounds of these insecticides are used in urban and suburban areas. and in urban areas we're usually doing it to have the perfect rose or the nicest rhododendron or a lawn without any insect pests in it. >> manufacturers argue the pest-fighting power of neonics is indispensable to american agriculture. without neonics, consumers would pay higher prices for food, farm exports wou be lessompetiti, and the u. economy would suffer. >> in the 1940s, we had the
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organochlorine insecticides, such as ddt and endosulfan, and initially these pesticides were viewed as a miracle chemistry. >> we started using more and more of these as industrial agriculture took hold in the fifties, sixties, and, really, this is what rachel carson talked about in "silent spring." using all these insecticides was really leading to what she felt was a collapse of biodiversity. we wereilling thenderpinnin of, uh, of the food chain. >> by the 1970s, regulators were rushing to get these organochlorine pesticides off the market because of their persistence in the environment and their possib link with rth defe thinning in birds, and other
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problems. >> along in the late eighties and early nineties, really people started to think, well, we need something that is more targeted. we need chemicals that are not so broadly toxic to everythin and that's really where neonicotinoids came from. the idea was that these chemicals, although highly toxic to insects, are less acutely toxic to mammals, they're less acutely toxic to fish. they also thought, what if we can target them inside the plant? if we can target them inside the plant, this is going to be better, because the animals outside the plant are not going to be affected. >> they became popular because they weresed as aystemic secticide,o you could apply it to the seed and it would just be put in e ground a the plant wod take iup as rows, eventually giving the plant protection from pests.
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>> they're found in the leaves, the s, e t pollen and the nectar. and nobody really thought about that weak link, which wasoxic pollen, toxic nectar, and toxic for a long time in these crops. >> neonicotinoidsre nerve toxins fecting thnervous systeof organis. bayer crop science says they are safe for honeybees. >> honeybee healn america began tdecline ma years bere neonitinoids were in use. we've tested these products for many years, and in the field under real exposure conditions,hese pducts ar safeand we he lots o sties to sw th >>many sentists ose resech is not nded bthe pestide instry chaenge the fety of onics, sayg that evelow leve of exsure can afft the abily of honbees to communicate and can suppress thimmune system, making them more susceptible to viruses and varroa mites.
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>> the effects of these pesticides on the bees is manyfold. it affects repdun.he navigational ability of the bees is impaired. they can't find their way home. if th can' find theiway home, theyan't ring resrces back to the hive, the hive gets depleted of worker bees and forager bee hive jt >> and it's not only honeybees that are affected. >> we're seeing broad-scale decline in really important pollinators, like our mb iclin and arhaps 30% of our quarter of them at risk of extinction in the near future. >> david goulson, a scientist based in the united kingdom, looked into how neonicotinoids affect mbbe >> we wanted to know what would happen to a bumblebee nest that was next to a field of a flowering crop like canola that had been treated as a seed dressing with a neonicotinoid. we simply tk bumblebee
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nests and we either gave them healthy food for a fortnight or we gave them food that we'd added, um, neonicotinoids to to mimic the exact concentrations that would be iny gathered from treated or [indistinct] crop. and then we put the nests outside. they then had to forage for themselves. they had to fly into the landscape and bring back food. we compared how well the nests did that were either treated or not treated. and the effects were really astonishing. we found that the control nests, the ones eating healthy food, grew faster, got much bigger. compared to the treated nest, the treated nest produced 85% fewer new queens than the healthy, the control nest. if that's happening with wild nests, which there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't be, then that means that the following spring, there are going to be 85% fewer queen bees starting w nests, which you'd imagine could have huge knock-on long-term effects if that's happening every year.
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>> and it's not only pollinators at risk. in june 2014, t tasforce on systemic pesticides, an independent group of scientists from 15 nations, found that neonics and the pesticide fipronil also harmed birds, amphibians, reptiles, as well as terrestal and aquatic invertebrates. earthworms, vital for soil productivity, are especial vulnerable. neonics affect their tunneling behavior and sperm quality. je-marc bonmatin of the national center for scientific resech in fran, was one the lead authors of the group's findings. >> [speaking french] >> the task force says system
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pesticide contamination is so widespread that the diversity and stability of the world's ecosystems is at risk. the task force based its findings on an analysis of 800 peer-reviewed reports, the most comprehensive review of the scientific literature on systemic pesticides to date. when asked to comment, bayer crop science said the task force only looks at worst-case scenarianth under realistic field conditions show that systemic pesticides do not harm honeybees, birds, or other wildlife. >> the main concern with neonics is that they have such a high toxicity to a broad range of invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic. they are extremely persistent and extremely mobile.
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and you put those 3 conditions together and you're talking about removal of a large segment of the invertebrate community. >> ty're aumulating the soilthey're drawup by heerow plas, by ees grong in frmlan and so . an so esseially anhing hat's living ifarmla is being owly psoned althe time. >> thether thi that hacome t is tt they're muchore wasoble s led toelievethis mes that wh they geinto theround with war, they ve readi in across the environment. they are now found routinely in stream samples as well as well samples across the united states. >> birds like swifts and swallows depend on insects as a food source. if insects are usually a body of water, birds are deprived of food.
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>> the concentrations of the neonics in our waterways are sufficient to kill the aquaticbe birds depend. >> in canada, where neonicotinoids are widely used on crops, dr. christy morrissey is also finding high levof wetland contamination. she focuses her research in canada's breadbasket, the prairie pothole region of saskatchewan, where agricultural land is laced with potholes, small temporary ponds f b snowmelt and rain. >> in 2013 we found up to 90% of the ponds that we sampled in spring, even before the farmers were out seeding, had detectable levels of neonics in them. but our peak concentrations occurred after seeding, not surprising, particularly after rainfall events, at levels that were, you know, upwards of, uh,
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3 parts per bil, h well known to affect aquatic insects. >> with over 40% of the cropland in canada's prairies treated with neonicotinoids, the impact on aquatic insects and the anims r for food could be significant. dr. morrissey's study is the first to look into this issue in canada. >> we have a field study that's trying to understand how neonicotinoids potentially get into wetlands and whether or not they affect aquatic invertebrates, which are the base of the food chain for all kinds of other wildlife species, and in particular, birds. so we're trying to link these 3 different things, um, f the--from the pesticide on the field to the wetlands to the bugs, and ultimately to the birds. we've found that neonicotinoids across the board have a range of toxicity for the different insect species. but for a certain group, and particularly the mayflies
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and the midges, these species are extremely sensitive to neonicotinoids. >> the chicks, the young birds, need that supply of insects. as do the, uh, the female birds, the hens, when they're laying their eggs. they need that high protein source. and there's some critical points in birds' life where insects are key and critical. and if the--the amount, the availability of insects is reduced, it has been shown that that affects reproduction. >> so we put nestox different sites, some that are uncontaminated, that have no pesticide use and in sites that are more agriculturally intensive that have extensive use of neonicotinoids. >> morrissey is only a year and a half into a 4-year study, but is already starting to see some alarming effects. >> the birds are lower body mass or got poor body condition at e lly
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there is some link or some correlation between how well the birds are doing in terms of their physiology and their health and their body condition and how many bugs or how abundant the bugs are. and that seems to relate well with the, uh, presence and levels of contamination in these ponds. >> there have been few studies to date on how neonics affect ocean life. this is an area of specialization for dr. craig downs, and what he is learning is troubling. >> for example, imidacloprid can affect crab larvae as low as 50 parts per quadrillion. it affects their mitochondria at this level, so that it's a mitochondrial poison. it can affect their muscles. if the mitochondria are damaged in the muscles, it can cause paralysis.
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it also causes immune suppression in these crabs. meaning that they are much more susceptible to bacterial infections and fungal infections when co-exposed with imidacloprid. >> craig downs also studies the urpact of imidacloprid on sea >> neonicotinoids cause dna damage in sea urchin sperm as low as 500 parts per trillion. it causes developmental abnormalities as low as 5 parts per trillion. ea t they're a mutagen. um, it means there's a direct threat to the reproductive fitness of the entire biodiversity of marine toifou he damage you have damage to eggs, the next generation will not be as fit or might not come into existence at all. um, so it threatens sterility. >> the meso-american reef stretches 700 miles from the northern tip of mexico's yucatan
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peninsula to honduras. its home ta wide dersity of mare life. d dr. dos foun it is ontaminad with rest of roff from aiculturafields. > 8 yearago, a cal reef ganism-widsurvey w condted to msure themount of pticides at cou be foundn at lea 22 col reef orgasms, rging fm corals queen cch to a mber of ral reefishes. at we dicovered s that o of all e sames that weollected % of thsamples at we collected were contaminated with imidacloprid. 53% of the samples we collected were contaminated with fipronil, which is another stci. sohe level of contamination on a coral ref, especially the second-largest barrier reef in the world, is pretty disturbing.
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>if neonics harm ans, what about people? in human surrogates like rats and mice, neonics are linked to a wide range of disorders. and in human blood studies, they are linked to dna damage federal agencies like the environmental protection agency are really supposed to be, um, managing these insecticides in a way that causes minimal harm to humans and other animals. >> starting in the 1990s, agency scientists were raising red flags about the mobility, the persistence, the toxicity of these neonic products, incding the effects on pollinators and other wildlife. >> epa documents show agency scientists knew imidacloprid is highly toxic to songbirds,
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aquatic invertebrates, and honeybees as early as 1993. yet epa allowed imidacloprid the.s. market a year later. afr decades exposure,he consequences epa scientists once warned about are now confirmed by the task force on systemic ately, the chemicals are often, and i woul say most of the time, released before there is adequate information tohow whethethey are harmful in the environment. prime example of that. >> epa assesses risk posed by pesticides prior to their release on the market. safety studies are typically conducted and paid for by pesticide manufacturers on their own product. epa says its decisions are informed by the best science available. in addition to studies by manufacturers, epa scientists review pesticide
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studies from peer-reviewed scientific journals and data from a wide variety of sources when they are available. but studies on pesticide safety that come out after a pesticide is on the market may not be eluated by epa until a pesticide comes upfor reew, a process that can takas lo as 15 yea. farmers like drew stabler of laytonsville, maryland say that neonics can be used safely and are indispensable to their business. >> well, i think that any product that's on the market has teed a proven to do a job, and we ha faith in that process. myself as a farmer, i've been farming 50, 60 years. i've been lucky enough to make a living doing what i like to do. a we try to use everything that's been tested and approved
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and recommended at certain times and how much. we do that both for the benefit of the environment and the benefit of our pocketbook. you keep hearing about extra people in thworld that need to be fed, so we can't back off on what our production abilities are. we feel we have to keep improving our production abilities. and some of these products will contribute to that. >>he reason that we're worried about neonotinoi specifically is because they're being used at an unprecedented scale. >> essentially, it seems to me the agri-chemical industry has persuaded everyone that they need these products as an insurance against a pest outbreak in their crop. but actually, most of the time these pests aren't there. so you're insuring against something which is never gonna happen. >> they have a real impact on natural enemies of the crop pests. we can cause secondary
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pest outbreaks bsehe chemicals are so efficient at killing the predators and the parasites of the crop pests. perhaps 70% of the neonicotinoids used on soybeans in a seed treatment are not needed. there's no pest that they're controlling. so if we just use them only when they were needed, we could eliminate insectide use over millions of acres. >> many people would say we need pesticides to grow thfood to fe the growi world, the human population, and th maybe it's a necessary evil to sacrifice some wildlife along the way. fine. so you then look to see, to try to weigh up the damage that neonicotinoids seem to be doing against the benefit we get from them in terms of increased crop yield. and amazingly, it turns out there's virtually no evidence that they're actually effective. so there have been a whole sway of studies, particularly from
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north america, come out in the last year or two where they've simply grown crops with and without seed dressing and find that they get exactly the same yield without the seed dressing as they do with it. >> some actions are being taken to curb the use of neonics. in europe, he european union banned 3 neonics for a period of two years in 2013. the ban targets neonics used on plan and cereals attractive to llinators. in the united states, the saving america's pollinators act was introduced in congress in 2013. earl blumenauer was one of the sponsors of the bill. >> what we're attempting to do with this legislation is a whistle. stop moving forward with the products within the next 6 months that has this potential exceedingly damaging effect and prohibit their use until w' to follow through on the research to prove
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that they're safe. >> but congressional action is unlikely any time soon. in 2014, neonics were banned by the cities of eugene, oregon and spokane, washington on municipal property. the u.s. fish and wildlife service announced plans to ban neonics from all wildlife refuges by 2016. and the white house launched an initiative to strengthen federal action to improve pollinator research and to protect pollinator habitat. >> there are things that we can't control or not easily regulate, things like climate change, even habitat loss are things that we can't control. but things like pesticides we can. >> well, nature is pretty good at fixing itself. but then that assumes that you're going to remove the pressures that we're putting on it now. >> we depend on all these things. we depend on bees to pollinate our crops, on worms
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and other organisms that live in soil to keep the soil healthy and so on. if we wipe them all out, then ultimately, we'll wipe ourselves out.
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(applause) manuel: so, i want to thank rachel for that kind introduction, although as a lrd for socjuic uh, and i also understand the qualifications about economists. it's said if you took all the economists in the world and laid them end to end, they still couldn't reach a conclusion. uh. (audience laughing) it's also been said about economists, if you took all the economists in the world and laid them end to end, that might be a good thing. uh. (audience laughing) so, what'm gonna talk about today is a little bit about really sort of movement building to transform the situations that we see ourselves in. i'll get into that in just a second. i

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